It’s the Thought That Counts

I’m conflicted. I realize that some readers enjoy it when I open up about my writing process. At the same time, two thoughts pull me in the other direction: 1) It’s bad voodoo to talk about work before it’s finished; and 2) It seems a little pretentious to me, prattling on about my process.

But, anyway, the blog’s name is so I guess I’m already shin-deep in pretension.

Lately I’ve been keeping a little spiral notebook on my desk, just to the left of the mouse pad (I’m a southpaw from Long Island, remember, and my fastball has natural movement). I jot down things, make “To Do” lists, etc. This morning I woke early and went immediately to work. We’ve got a snow delay, Lisa’s home until 10:00, so I need to make hay.

I wanted to get out a new post for my fabulous Fathers Read blog — please check that out people — knock out some fan mail, scribe a witty Facebook Status Update, and work on the new book. I had woken up thinking about it last night. This morning, before the coffee kicked it, I scribbled this in the aforementioned notebook:

Can you read that? It’s just enough to fuel my writing for the day.

Okay, to fill you in, there’s a scene that just happened. We’re in a middle school and our main character, a boy, endures a moment of petty cruelty. He stands at his locker, absorbing the verbal blow, and watches his foe lope down the hallway.

He thinks:

I so want to be his friend.

That was the surprising thought that woke me up. And it makes sense to me; it’s realistic for how kids think, especially in bullying situations, that paradoxical response, a middle-grade version of The Stockholm Syndrome. (BTW, not at all sure about the word “so” up there, which strikes me as lame and lazy, but I won’t fuss with that now; like birthday presents, when it comes to first drafts, it’s the thought that counts.)

Then another voice surprised me, a new character I hadn’t planned on. I mean, okay, I “planned” on there being more characters, just hadn’t figured out the details. No outline, nothing, just vague and formless thoughts. But before I could begin to conjure this one’s profile and backstory, there was her voice:

“No you don’t.”

In my notebook, as you might be able to decipher, I next wrote:

I turned to see _______ _______ standing next to me. A little awkwardly close.

This is what I think of placeholder text. I don’t have time to, or don’t feel like, actually visualizing the details right now. I know I need to describe her, set the scene, her lank hair and pale complexion, the way her arms hang limply at her side, but I’m just not ready to go there yet. What’s her name? What’s her story? And look at that sentence, “A little awkwardly close.” Again, I’m more interested in the idea — that she invades his space a little, and it’s uncomfortable — than the actual writerly part of things right now.

I had another notion, one I wasn’t sure about, and had to move quickly to get it down:

It was as if she could read my thoughts.

Hmmm. In this particular book, I want to be open to the magical, the psychologically true, so I can’t dismiss that possibility. Can she actually read his thoughts? Or was it just one of those things that happen happen when two people have a connection?

Now I have to think a bit. And write. Because usually it’s in the writing that we do our best thinking.

We don’t write what we know. We write to find out what we know.

Have a great weekend!

One comment

  1. Parker P says:

    “like birthday presents, when it comes to first drafts, it’s the thought that counts.”

    Love this! Haha! Thanks for sharing about your process. It’s always interesting to hear writers talk about that.

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